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November 11, 2013 / jeffnward

No! It doesn’t have to be this way!

I continue to be consistently stunned by those historically challenged folks who, in response to some sort of sad revelation, inevitably respond with, “But it’s always been that way!”

For example, the fact that Chicago’s black ministers have been the biggest impediment to same-sex marriage in this state is beyond baffling because if anyone should understand the insidious effects of bigotry, it really oughtta be them.  incognito

Ain’t it odd how generally reasonable and rational people who readily decry attacks on civil rights marchers, would never treat women like second class citizens, and denounce school bullying at the drop of a hat, suddenly think that, by those very condemnations, their similar sins have been summarily forgiven?

So as I watch the NFL’s best do their damndest to absolve Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito of being beyond the caricature of a redneck bully, all I can do is shake my head in laugh.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the aforementioned footballs player’s latest travails which include, but aren’t limited to, leaving teammate John Martin the kind of racist and violent voicemail that would make a veteran Teamster blush. Claiming he was the target of repeated bullying, Martin left the team.

Sure enough! Incognito attempted to excuse the inexcusable with this; “All this stuff coming out, it speaks to the culture of our locker room, our closeness, our brotherhood. And the racism, the bad words, that’s what I regret most. But that’s a product of the environment.”

If this is the way he treats his friends, I wouldn’t recommend becoming an enemy.

Trust me, having both played and coached, I understand that whenever three or more males get together without female supervision, it’s likely to descend into an episode of the Three Stooges. I also understand that an NFL locker room is overflowing with testosterone and teams tend to bond through bizarre hazing rites of passage.

Oh and ladies, don’t get too far ahead of yourselves! Because whenever three or more of y’all get together, you come up with fascinating concepts like scoreless t-ball games where everybody wins because children have to feel good all the time!

But I digress.

So while I think Cubs’ tradition of making rookies carry the Hello Kitty backpack out to the bullpen is kind of silly, it beats the heck out of the liberal application of the “N” word. And call me crazy, but I can’t remember the last time I threatened to defecate in a coworker’s mouth.

When making your final determination here, I’d encourage you to consider Incognito’s rap sheet which includes being kicked off two college teams, being kicked off two NFL teams, being accused of molesting a female volunteer during a Dolphins golf outing, being convicted of assault, and punching out a hotel security guard.

Yeah! He’s a real bleepin’ teddy bear.

And please don’t even try to tell me the NFL doesn’t know exactly what’s going on because not only do they intentionally ignore it, they implicitly condone it. C’mon! Word on the street was Dophins’ coach Joe Philbin told Incognito to “toughen” Martin up.They were gonna let the whole thing go until the racist voicemail showed up.

I don’t give a flying bleep about that rarified NFL air and how tough you have to be to play football. Exactly how does that absolve anyone of the need to apply basic human decency?

And No! It doesn’t have to be that way because I’ve seen the opposite firsthand.

Let’s go back a few years to my brief tryout for the Geneva High School football team. Aside from their vast height and size, what immediately struck me about that team was the almost zen-like camaraderie.

Now, I’m sure they were on their best behavior because I was there, but there are some things you just can’t hide. It was clear to this veteran writer that, not only was there none of the bullying BS that’s de rigueur for so many sports teams, from star quarterback Matt Williams on down to the guy who hadn’t played a down in four years, respect ruled the day.

I’ll never forget Ben Rogers’ (son of GHS principal Tom) kindness in helping this nervous (then) 53 year-old hopeful out. He will go far in life. And talking with Mr. Williams about quarterbacking and his NIU future was also a blast. Talk about an unassuming kid with a boatload of talent.

It turned out to be one of the best days of my life.

And that attitude and comportment starts and ends with coach Rob Wicinski who won’t tolerate the kind of bleep that goes in the Dolphin’s locker room. You see, when properly administered, football can be the kind of endeavor that sets you up to succeed in life and makes you a better person. It really shouldn’t be something that turns you into a racist misogynist thug who will never be able to adjust to what the rest of us call reality.

Can you imagine Mr. Incognito coping with something as simple as working at your neighborhood McDonald’s? (He will soon be unemployed!)

Being an acute moron is not a prerequisite to winning football games. Contrary to Mr. Durocher’s “nice guys finish last” assessment, the Vikings acquit themselves well season after season.

Though I’m not a big fan of his style, while searching for a new manager, Cubs GM Theo Epstein said, “There has to be tough love, but there has to be love before there’s tough love.”

Amen.

One Comment

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  1. kim / Nov 12 2013 2:29 pm

    Well said Jeff! I couldn’t agree with you more.

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